On May 7th I achieved my ambition of completing a marathon. It was pure coincidence that the number I was allocated reflected perfectly the range of emotions and feelings I felt whilst participating in the race.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been reflecting on my achievements, partly because my legs downed tools for a few days following my exertions. Consequently it felt like the perfect time to put in writing the primary motivation why I decided to start running in the first place. What started out as a single necessity has now become a multitude of reasons, enjoyment and camaraderie to name two.
In 2013 I decided to pick a form of exercise I hated. I despised running with a passion. Many would ask why I choose this form of exercise. The reason was I needed to find some form of exercise that allowed me to indulge in my passion of eating and drinking.
Swimming was just too boring. It helped when I ruled this out that I was, and still remain a lousy swimmer. Also the fact that a small child once asked me at a local pool if I was a gorilla due to the amount of body hair I have probably subconsciously helped.
Going to the Gym was tedious. I found myself getting wound up by the men who prance around shaking their protein drinks for 5 minutes (look at me, look at me) before deciding to do 1 repetition of weights and then looking at themselves in the mirror.
Ride a bike … Hell no.
Circuit training…. F### no.
At 21 stone I had a real Hobson’s choice to make. Diet (apologies for swearing) and learn to love salad or running. Obviously I choose the latter.
The first run
One evening I decided to see how far I could run without stopping. I managed about a minute and a half. It felt like ten. Over the course of a month I went out most evenings until I found I could last about 30 minutes. After a couple of months I was up to one hour.
An unexpected and welcome consequence of my run to eat objective was that I was slowly losing the pounds that I had amassed over a period of 20 years. I knew this to be the case as I measured myself in clothe sizes and not pounds or kilos. Shirts which I had kept over the years went from feeling snug to looser fitting.
I wasn’t in love with running. At times it felt a chore but I knew it was having the desired effect of allowing me to indulge in food without dieting (apologies for swearing again).
To sustain the interest in running meant that I had to vary my routine and also look for new challenges. I was clear on one thing though and that was I would never run a half marathon. I did not see the point of running for over two hours, suffering chaffing, and having sore legs.
However that all changed when my sister entered the 2013 Cardiff half. Afterwards I thought if she can do it and she is older than me then so can I. She posted a very respectable time and I must admit a bit of sibling rivalry surfaced as I challenged myself to beat her time.
When the organisers opened up the entries for 2014 Cardiff half I signed up and prepared (I use the term loosely) a training plan. By my standards I trained really hard and managed to beat her time by about 30 seconds. The one and only time I have beaten her.
Why have I not done this before?
Upon completion of the Cardiff half I felt I had achieved my goal. Never again, JOB DONE. Within hours I was thinking to myself I can beat that time, I am going to do it again.
Sure for a couple of days after the race my legs hurt, but within a week of finishing my brain had conveniently forgotten the tough elements to the race. Instead it was focusing on the positives, and there are many.
The crowds are big but from mile 8 to mile 13 when you’re tired and your mind is wandering them really lift you up. You get a feel for it when you do a large 10km race in Cardiff, but the half goes to a completely different level.
The camaraderie of fellow athletes shouting words of encouragement, or subconsciously inspiring you to find hidden reserves of energy. Veterans of half marathons will know that on this point I am speaking of course about fancy dress runners. In last year’s Cardiff half this manifested itself in the desire not to be beaten by a Panda. The battle I eventually lost.
I have run 3 half marathons and I have always found my mind set change when I know I am running the last mile. There is a great feeling when you see the sign that says 600 metres to go, and when you turn the last corner and see the finish line with the clock ticking you find a bit more energy to put on a dash for the crowds.
Obviously it goes without saying you enjoy the obligatory bit of bling, after all you earned it .But getting the t-shirt with the words HALF MARATHON FINISHER. That’s the cream on the top.
There are many people within PRR who have signed up for Cardiff half. And if this is your first half marathon I guarantee that there will be nervousness and excitement. Embrace it and enjoy it. An amazing experience awaits you.